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Willie Richardson / Feb. 5, 2020

Wishing Black History Weren't 'Black'

...But a call to freedom, excellence, triumph, and hope. These ideals have no color.

It’s about that time of year when pictures of prominent black inventors, physicians, abolitionists, and judges are displayed in the hallways of schools and churches. The month where black people feel a certain way about themselves. A time when black celebrities and athletes pay homage to the person who broke color barriers in their field of sports and entertainment. As a child, I remember there were three people you would definitely hear about during Black History Month: Dr. King, Malcolm X, and a tie between either Rosa Parks or Harriet Tubman. From “I Have a Dream” to not giving up a seat on the bus to a white man.

Unfortunately, Black History is ghettoized from mainstream American history. Segregation still exists within the present day “Black History” celebration. It’s not the separation of color and history, but an apartheid of context and history. History does not see color, yet this is the way our schools and churches investigate it. Must we continue telling history from a hue perspective instead of a human one?

First, let’s examine the origins of Black History Month. It was known as African American History Month, which came from “Negro History Week.” Historian Carter G. Woodson created this brainchild along with other prominent African Americans. In 1926, national Negro History Week was always the second week of February to celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Isn’t that something?

This entire Black History Month “celebration” was centered between a white Republican president and a black Republican abolitionist. Even the NAACP was founded on February 12, 1909, the centennial anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

As it relates to history, you cannot celebrate Lewis Latimer without including Thomas Edison. You cannot teach about Robert Peary and the North Pole without including Matthew Henson, an explorer of the North Pole. You cannot celebrate Colonel Charles Young without including Major John J. Pershing and the Punitive Expedition. You cannot celebrate Frederick Douglass without appreciating the contributions of William Lloyd Garrison.

Black History Month disconnects American history, culture, and ideals, and, worst of all, it disconnects blacks from whites.

This nation has witnessed the blood, sweat, and tears of both whites and blacks and that story should be told as one. I wish Black History weren’t “black” but a call to freedom, excellence, triumph, and hope. These ideals have no color; they are American. Welcome to American History.

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